If you work in the nonprofit industry, you want to change the world.
Whether you’re trying to find homes for abandoned animals, feeding hungry children, working to cure an incurable disease, or committed to bringing more art into your community, you’re out to create a different world than the one we have today.
The status quo isn’t good enough for you. You want the world to be better.
You are an activist.
Funny thing is, when I use this word with a potential client, I can tell right off if we’re a good fit by their reaction. Some fundraisers embrace their activism, understanding that whether or not they are petitioning Congress or staging demonstrations, activism is inherent in everything their organization does.
Other organizations shy away. They prefer to think of themselves in terms of social good, community benefit, outreach or education. Anything but activists.
Forget for a moment about what you think your organization does. What does your donor think? Does Verna give because you’re doing good work? Or does she give because you are changing the world?
After almost 20 years working with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients, I’ve come to believe that if you want to raise more money and encourage more loyalty in your donors, cultivating an Activist Attitude is where it’s at.
A Case Study of Environmental Organizations
Let’s put this in real terms by talking about two different environmental groups.
Group A is a venerable institution in the environmental world, with a 40-year history and a host of achievements.
Group B is a newer organization with a fierce passion for their work.
Both are international in scope. Both stage protests and work collaboratively with other organizations. Both do a fair amount of cage rattling at the national and international level. Both have impressive track records in their areas.
Group A wants to be seen as on-the-ground activists, out to fight for our planet. Group B insists on presenting their work as education and community outreach. Even their protests and petitions to governments and governmental bodies is couched in terms of local empowerment, not activism.
Group A has doubled in size in the last two years. Group B has…not.
A Case Study from the Arts and Culture World
An acquaintance works for an arts organization that has always struggled to raise money. They can articulate why art is important, they believe in the critical importance of their work, but they were in danger of disappearing because they couldn’t get the funding they needed.
We discussed their problems, and I asked if she’d ever thought of making the case that the organization was addressing very real and persistent problems in the community — that it was changing the world through its work.
They tiptoed into a more activist tone in their next appeal, and it garnered the best response of the year.
Later this week, I’ll post more about how to fundraise like an activist organization. But for now, take some time to remember that you wouldn’t be doing the work you do if you didn’t think the world needed to change. Don your Activist Attitude!
You are an activist. And you can fundraise like one.